James M. Cain

The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

Easton Press James M. Cain books

The Postman Always Rings Twice

Franklin Library James M. Cain books

The Baby in the Icebox - Limited First Edition Society - 1981
The Postman Always Rings Twice & Double Indemnity - Library of Mystery Masterpieces - 1988


James M. Cain

James Mallahan Cain (July 1, 1892 – October 27, 1977) was an American author and journalist, best known for his contributions to the hardboiled crime fiction genre. Born in Annapolis, Maryland, Cain's early life was marked by a series of moves, as his father's job in academia required the family to relocate frequently. This transient upbringing influenced Cain's later writing, as he often depicted the instability of human relationships. Cain's literary career began in journalism, working for various newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun. His experiences as a reporter fueled his interest in crime, corruption, and the darker aspects of human nature. In the 1930s, Cain transitioned to fiction writing and quickly gained recognition for his distinctive style, characterized by spare prose and a focus on the psychological complexities of his characters.

His breakthrough came with the publication of The Postman Always Rings Twice in 1934, a novel that epitomized the hardboiled genre and became an instant success. The story, with its themes of lust, murder, and betrayal, captivated readers and established Cain as a master of noir fiction. The book was adapted into several films and remains a classic of American literature. Cain continued his success with Double Indemnity (1936), another noir masterpiece that delved into the world of insurance fraud and murder. This novel, too, was adapted into a highly acclaimed film directed by Billy Wilder. Cain's ability to craft morally ambiguous characters and explore the darker side of the human psyche set him apart in the world of crime fiction. Despite his success, Cain faced criticism for the explicit content and controversial themes in his work. However, this did not deter him from producing more novels, including Mildred Pierce (1941), a departure from his earlier crime-focused works. The story, centered around a woman's struggles in post-Depression America, earned Cain a new level of literary acclaim and was later adapted into a successful film and television series.

Serenade by James M. Cain was first published in 1937. The story revolves around a classical singer named John Howard Sharp, also known as "Johnny." Johnny Sharp, a once-successful opera singer, falls from grace after a scandalous incident. The novel begins with Johnny in Mexico, working in a rough bar as a piano player. The narrative is presented as a confessional letter from Johnny to a psychiatrist, Dr. Franchot. Through this letter, Johnny recounts the events leading to his current state. The story explores Johnny's relationships with women, particularly with a Mexican prostitute named Juana. Johnny's journey is marked by passion, betrayal, and a desire for redemption. The novel delves into themes of love, identity, and the pursuit of artistic excellence. The novel is primarily set in Mexico, providing a backdrop of the country's culture and landscapes. The atmosphere of the novel reflects the sultry and gritty ambiance of the Mexican locales. Serenade touches on themes of love, sacrifice, and the consequences of one's actions. Johnny Sharp grapples with personal demons and societal expectations, and the novel explores the complexities of human relationships and the pursuit of one's true self. Overall, Serenade is a compelling exploration of human nature, love, and the consequences of one's choices, showcasing James M. Cain's talent for crafting stories with psychological depth and noir elements.

As the years passed, Cain's popularity waned, but his influence endured. He continued to write novels, short stories, and screenplays, contributing to the evolving landscape of American literature and film noir. James M. Cain's legacy lies in his groundbreaking contributions to the hardboiled genre, as well as his exploration of the complexities of human relationships in the face of temptation and moral ambiguity. He passed away on October 27, 1977, leaving behind a body of work that continues to be celebrated for its gritty realism and psychological insight.


The Postman Always Rings Twice

Cain's first novel the subject of an obscenity trial in Boston and the inspiration for Camus's The Stranger is the fever-pitched tale of a drifter who stumbles into a job, into an erotic obsession, and into a murder.

When Frank, an amoral young drifter, gets thrown off a hay truck in the California desert, he ends up at a diner run by Cora and her inconvenient husband, Nick. This chance meeting puts them all on a sure path to perdition. First published in 1934 and banned in Boston for its explosive mixture of violence and eroticism, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a classic of the roman noir. It established James M. Cain as a major novelist with an unsparing vision of America's bleak underside and was acknowledged by Albert Camus as the model for The Stranger.

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity which followed Postman so quickly, Cain’s readers hardly had a chance to catch their breath is a tersely narrated story of blind passion, duplicity, and, of course, murder. Mildred Pierce, a work of acute psychological observation and devastating emotional violence, is the tale of a woman with a taste for shiftless men and an unreasoned devotion to her monstrous daughter. All three novels were immortalized in classic Hollywood films. Also included here are five masterful stories Pastorale, The Baby in the Icebox, Dead Man, Brush Fire and The Girl in the Storm that have been out of print for decades. 


The Baby in the Icebox and Other Short Fiction

There is a hungry tiger loose in the house, and that is not good news for anyone. A jealous husband let the animal out of his cage hoping he would eat his wife alive, but tigers aren’t used to taking orders. This jungle cat will get his meal, and he doesn’t care where it comes from.

The Baby in the Icebox begins with a murdered wildcat and ends with a dead human and what comes in between is some of the most striking prose James M. Cain ever put to paper. It is one of the first stories this master of crime fiction ever wrote, and it shows all the hallmarks of the novels that would later make him famous namely Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. The tales in this collection are short, but Cain never needed more than a few pages to thrill.

These are the elements of three stories highlighted by the streamlined prose, concise plots, and unique voice that also distinguish James M. Cain's classic novels Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. As Roy Hoopes points out in his incisive Introduction, James M. Cain wrote best when he wrote succinctly, and this collection proves the point.
The short stories, sketches and dialogues, and one novella in this book are filled with people caught in the cold-blooded grip of passion and fate. Every page is written in the crisp, fast-paced, caustically ironic style that made James M. Cain a master of the school of hard-boiled fiction.

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